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Rethinking the Capitol Hill Pac-Man pavement park

Kim’s picture of the Pac-man pocket park from the Capitol Hill Seattle Facebook Group

The latest discussion in the Capitol Hill Seattle Facebook Group brings together many themes familiar to readers of CHS — public space, parks and p-patches, homelessness… and dogs.

Kim posted this image of the E Olive Way at Summit at Denny Pac-Man pocket park and raises a valid issue — what use is a pocket park if nobody uses it? “I pass this sad scene every day and have never seen anything suggestive of added value going on there,” she writes. “Would make a great pea patch or dog park with a little investment.”

It’s difficult to argue with her — but you can try or add your thoughts by joining the group here.

We have asked the Seattle Department of Transportation which administrates the city’s pocket parks program for clarification on the camping end of things but haven’t yet heard back. Given that some areas of the right of way like parking strips are a camping grey area in the city, we’re asking for more information about campers using the pocket parks. “Cleanups at unauthorized camping sites are prioritized based on health and safety issues observed,” the city’s “unauthorized camping” site reads. “Criminal behavior and obstructing a facility (e.g., camping on the sidewalk) are considered as part of this prioritization.”

The conversation in the CHS group, we’re glad to report, is more about how to better put the spaces to use.

This particular pocket park took shape early last year and replaced street parking spaces, an old bike share station, and a small through street that was a dangerous problem at the busy intersection, according to SDOT. The space was given a fun paint job, some plastic bollards, and planters to help buffer it from the rush of nearby traffic. The Summit project was one of a handful of $70,000 Pavement to Parks projects across the city. The city’s first pilot projects in the program can be found on First Hill around the three-way intersection of University, Union and Boylston and at 9th Ave. The plan is to evaluate the spaces after a couple of years.

Neighbors in the CHS group have begun the evaluation process. “There is one sad enclosed dog park East of I5 and hundreds of dogs,” one person writes. “I live just a block from this ‘park’ and always walk by confused at the point of it.”

“This park would be a lot more pleasant after an Olive Way road diet,” writes another.

In the meantime, there are some changes coming to the area of the little park with a new marijuana retailer lined up to take over the former home of Amante Pizza.

We’ll follow up with SDOT about the space and any opportunities to give it a little more love sooner rather than later.

UPDATE 4/6/2018: We finally heard back from SDOT on the encampment issue at the park:

The City must follow FAS 17-01 and MDAR 17-01 when addressing encampments in rights-of-way, including pocket park encampments. With an estimated 400 unauthorized encampments in Seattle, the City focuses its limited resources on removing encampments that pose the most significant public health and safety impacts to both the surrounding neighborhood and to people living within an encampment. The Navigation Team is aware of this encampment and will conduct outreach to these people living unsheltered, offering services and shelter.

The Pac-Man park encampment “is not currently prioritized for removal” but “the team will continue to monitor conditions within and around the encampment and determine next steps, when necessary,” SDOT tells us.

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28 thoughts on “Rethinking the Capitol Hill Pac-Man pavement park

  1. How about we just leave it as it is and save another $70,000. Not everything needs to look pretty or have some specific use. The taggers are just gonna spray over it anyway.

  2. A dog park sounds like a good use. If the city does their job and keeps the space free of encampments, it will be heavily used

  3. After my snarky comment about this park in a previous CHS article the City showed up, hauled off the trashed furniture and replaced the dead plants with slightly less dead versions. I guess that’s an improvement? I never understood the reason for this park. The road noise alone makes it impractical.

  4. This “park” was doomed to failure from the beginning. It’s an unpleasant space in an unpleasant location. If it could work as a dog park and they could make it attractive, I say go for it. Though it seems awfully small for free-roaming dogs and the substantial fence that would be required might make it look more like a jail yard.

  5. “This park would be a lot more pleasant after an Olive Way road diet”

    hits the nail on the head. I like the idea of pavement parks, but the reality is a lot of them are just too close to lots of traffic to be pleasant.

  6. You go to Europe and these parks are activated by beer gardens serving small plates, etc. Incentivize people wanting to be at the park. This park here was a bad idea, a lousy location, with another park a mere block away. I never understood the reasons for this park, other than the city wanted the road closed.

  7. There’s already a big dog park a few blocks away. And this space is too small for anything but shrimpy dogs.

  8. Totally destroyed within like a year. This is why we can’t have nice things.

    Just plant some grass or flowers or something, add some rocks to keep tents out, and let’s call it a day.

    • Yes, it would be great to have an “all-green” space there. The problem is that SDOT would not maintain it, or even keep the plants viable and healthy, as evidenced by the pathetic/dead plants that are currently there. Sometimes I get very discouraged about the City’s indifference to our public spaces.

  9. The dog park at Pine and I-5 is so gross I never count it as an option for my dog, since it’s like a big litter box with all kinds of things mixed up in dusty gravel. The closest viable dog park is about a mile away by the Amazon spheres.

    • How about getting together with you fellow dog owners to clean it up. Or should we just spend another $70k to build another park nearby to also fill up with dog shit.

    • Exactly. The thing about dog parks is that it’s up to the dog owners to keep them up. That’s why groups like COLA (Citizens for Off-Leash Areas) exist.
      If you think the park at Pine & Boren is too disgusting for your dog, I’m not sure why you think this park would be any better taken care of?
      For the record, I used to take my dog to that park (called Plymouth Pillars off-leash area) and for the most part I thought it was pretty well kept up, with only an occasional poop that was left, probably when somebody didn’t notice their dog dumped and they missed it.

    • “How about getting together with you fellow dog owners to clean it up. Or should we just spend another $70k to build another park nearby to also fill up with dog shit.”

      The Pine and Boren dog park is gross by design. It’s a big toxic litterbox with the gravel. You can’t just get a group together to pick up some turds and call it good.

      Dog parks should either be big and grassy, or small and concrete. The Amazon dog park isn’t just good because people keep it clean. It’s good because it’s actually cleanable, with hoses and a concrete floor.

    • Just go over to Seattle U and fill their green space with shit like everyone else does. And to boot you can do off leash too, apparently.

  10. If the city will only consider options that don’t involve spending enough money for a dog park, they should just let some food trucks park there.

  11. Let’s see if I have this straight, SDOT is creating tiny parks on SDOT property (which are paved over) while Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) staff are doing homeless sweeps on SDOT property in other parts of the city? (SPR is allegedly being compensated for this with budgetary transfers.)

    I think it would make more sense for SDOT to take responsibility for providing people with shelter, hygiene and safe access on underused SDOT property, under the bridges, etc.

    By the way the First Hill pavement park is currrently fenced off and being used for construction vehicle parking.

    • Are you for real? SDOT exists to provide transportation solutions for Seattle, something at which it’s barely capable of doing. It’s not its job to provide housing to people who happen to trespass on its property, or to make that illegal trespassing more convenient for the perpetrators.

      And frankly after this pavement park trainwreck, SDOT should get out of the leisure business as well.

    • Yeah, if someone has not enough money for shelter then they are always trespassing. If someone has no right to be where tbey are, they lose their right to legal protection and are forced to live lawlessly. This is convenient for officials like Mayor Durkan because the resulting dwellings become anarchic trash piles, the public hates them, and the city need provide no services that other Seattleites receive, just keep kicking them out of wherever they are and throwing away tbeir stuff. Cheap and easy. SDOT owns a lot of occupiable space which should be managed in the public interest, which means providing shelter.

    • I call BS, Jonathan. Homeless people do have the option of going to shelters, where there are almost always spaces available. They are not “forced to live lawlessly.” Instead, they choose to break civility laws because they want their “freedom,” which in many cases simply is a euphemism for drinking and/or drugging.

    • Those “almost always” available spaces mean to sleep on a mat on a floor crowded with other mats, separated from your life partner, then to leave early in the morning carrying all your possessions, which are limited to what you can carry all day. It is inhumane — far worse living conditions than prison. People report it as unsafe because of the lack of privacy. Some people can find a way to survive like that, but many can not, especially those with physical or medical limitations. It is also very time-consuming and not a situation that supports increasing one’s income.

      The community is becoming aware of this and creating enhanced shelter options, but not at a scale that matches the problem, and there is a lot of catching up to do. Meanwhile housing costs are going up fast and they example of the San Francisco Bay area shows they can go much, much higher. There are better ideas than providing shelter on SDOT land of course, but I do not seem them being put into practice at sufficient scale.

    • Yes, there are such problems at some shelters, but aren’t they still better than living rough in the cold and rain? And I would just point out that very few homeless people have “life partners.”

      We can at least agree that we need much more in the way of enhanced shelters, especially since they provide a much greater likelihood of a pathway to transitional or even permanent housing.

  12. That is some impressive circuitous logic. Now I better understand why the piles of stolen bike parts, needles, Cheeto bags, shopping baskets and human waste aren’t better organized. It only evil SDOT and Mayor Durkan would just leave them alone!!!

  13. Didn’t understand painting asphalt black for the PacMan theme ’cause it was “funny”, anything lighter would have been better. Encourage activity with some sort of commercial activity like a food truck + a bocce court.

    Please no more dog parks, they are disgusting places.